In the context of computing, beta is the software development phase following alpha. Named after the second letter of the Greek alphabet, software in the beta stage is also known as betaware.
Software released in beta is usually the first time it has been available to users outside the organisation that has developed it, with beta software often used as demonstrations and previews to prospective customers. Developers sometimes refer to this stage of software release as a preview, preview release, prototype, early access or technology preview (TP).
When software is released in beta, it is generally feature complete. However, the software may contain known or unknown bugs. As well as bugs, beta software may also suffer from spped and performance issues and may still crash or lose data.
Some software is kept in perpetual beta – this is when new features and functionality are continually added to the software without the organisation releasing a firm ‘final’ release.